Leading the Story in the 21st Century

Narrative HeaderStar Wars and Narrative

I recently bought the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD.  Together, the people in my household have been watching them one by one.  Unbelievably, everyone under my roof have not seen these movies up until now, except for me.  I have had to explain how one could not truly understand American culture until a person has seen—no experienced–those movies.

Most Americans have not only seen the Star Wars movies, they have memorized them.  But I’ll even take it a step further.  Most people have in some way become a part of the Star Wars narrative.  They have bought the merchandise, dressed up as a character a time or two, had some sort of light saber battle, and/or had some sort of theater experience.

My Mom was pregnant with me when she saw the first movie.  I saw the re-releases at a giant theater in southern California at midnight, where most people were dressed up and reciting the lines with the characters onscreen.  Star Wars is a part of my story.  It’s in my blood.

The reason why this is compelling is not because 1970’s special effects are still cutting-edge, or because no movies since have come close to that level of dialogue and character development.  It is because Star Wars is great narrative, or maybe even the best narrative.  That is what compels people to see it.  But I’m not just talking about the story on screen.  The greatness of the narrative has surprisingly little to do with the plot of the movies themselves.

Yes, the actual story in the movies is great, which is part of what fueled the original success, but there is far more than that.  There are the special features-type stories of where the characters came from, how the ships were built, and even how Lucas came up with novel ideas for filming.  People knew these stories long before home movies were even around.  But beyond that there are stories of “where I first saw…” and memories of all the times that each person somehow interacted with the idea behind Star Wars.  Star Wars is not a movies series, or even a brand.  Star Wars is a story…and it is all part of our stories.  And that is what sets Star Wars apart.

Star Wars is not peculiar in this regard, it is just a great example.  There are other movies, TV shows, books, and even events.  Nor is this a new phenomenon.  What is new is how communications technologies have transformed the popular consciousness and ways of processing information to make this concept of narrative far more important than ever before.

The Revolution in Culture

But the same point about movies is true about companies, products, and political candidates.  Truly, the world is nearing the end of a revolution in communication, a revolution that has changed very fundamental parts of the way people think and act, and ultimately is very good.  But, like any revolution, those who can’t evolve and those who refuse to understand will be left far behind.

You can see the revolution all around you.  You see it when you realize that movie blockbusters get people to wait in line for hours to sit through a brief film that won’t affect their lives all that much, while no one waits in line to hear a sermon on Sunday morning.  People flock to Lady Gaga concerts, when no one would suggest that she is the best musician on the scene.  But beyond these examples, the viral videos and memes of the Internet all become part of the lingua franca of our culture.  The evening news reports of riots in Egypt have been largely replaced by youtube videos and tweets of the average people there.  Story has become not only the message, but the way that messages are communicated, and the way they are absorbed.

Why is this the case?  It is because people crave the narrative.  People think in story.  A good story will draw people much better than a sermon about “3 ways to be a better dad.”  People love the narrative of Lady Gaga much more than her music.  Story motivates, enthralls, and ultimately inspires action.  And it is this concept that will either be a key to success for future leaders and motivators, or guarantee failure in the new social setting of the 21st century.

The 2008 Election

This is why people like Barak Obama and even Sarah Palin have seen success in the last few years.  The election of 2008 was a lock for Obama long before any votes were actually cast.  It had nothing to do with race, or even hatred of Bush.  It was really all due to one simple fact: Barak had a compelling narrative that people felt a part of, and McCain had none.

Remember the election?  Barak Obama stood for hope and change.  He stood for people chanting “Yes we can!”  He was the mixed-race son of an immigrant.  He talked a lot about what he believed and what we could achieve, and seldom talked about how we could do it.  What was his economic plan?  What was his health care plan?  How was he going to extricate us from Iraq and win in Afghanistan?

This isn’t to put him down.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have a plan, or even that his plan wasn’t any good.  Those issues don’t matter to his success, and didn’t matter to those voting for him in the election.  He wasn’t elected on his ideas.  He was elected on his narrative.  That is also the reason why people react to criticism of Obama with such rabid ferocity.  To attack his idea is to attack the narrative, and the narrative is not just his story, it is theirs.  That is why they wear his face on T-shirts, buy magazines and books with him on the cover, and give him Nobel Peace prizes before he’d accomplished anything.

What was McCain’s narrative?  He actually has a great one.  He’s a warrior from Vietnam who spent years being abused in a POW camp.  He is also a long time warrior with results in the Senate.  But during the election, he suppressed all of that in order to focus on the whats and hows of the issues.  When the recession hit hard, he suspended his campaign to come up with ideas to fix it.  That was very admirable, but it further removed him from the story.  Further, although the memory of Vietnam is still rather fresh for many Baby Boomers, it is not the narrative of the last 20+ years, and it certainly could not have been the central narrative of the 2008 election.

When election day came, people did one of three things.  Some voted for Sarah Palin’s narrative.  They marked McCain’s name, but it was the narrative of Sarah Palin that motivated them (look at the polling for McCain before and after her entry to the scene).  Some voted against Barak Obama, for one reason of another.  But many more than either of those two groups joined in the Obama narrative.  Barak won decisively.

Narrative in 2010

In the 2010 election, the story was reversed.  The narrative now was all about a “Tea Party.”  New leaders had arisen, talking about fiscal responsibility, and tying their stories to the story of the founding of the country.  They adopted the American story as their own, and called people back to the ideas that America was originally built on.

Speakers for the Conservative movement started talking about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Constitution.  The message was pretty simple, American exceptionalism as a kind of gospel, the Founding Fathers as apostles and martyrs, and the Tea Party leaders as evangelists of this new gospel.

Average Americans were showing up at rallies and speeches, joining the new narrative with their own.  No longer was the message about what one was being told by Rush Limbaugh.  Now people were calling Rush Limbaugh to tell what happened in their city, and they were posting photos on Facebook and hash-tagging it on Twitter.  The Mainstream media and liberal commentators were trying to stop it by using terms like “Tea-baggers,” but they were playing into the very hands of the movement.  They were simply adopting the narrative.

The Democrats had no counter.  They had no narrative.  Health care reform had passed.  They were in charge.  There was no compelling story to sell, and no story was told.  The base was barely engaged in the election.  Even Liberal veterans in states like California were afraid, and digging their claws in to hold on.

The election was a landslide.  The story was believed and it motivated people to go to the polls and vote for their favorite story that now included them.  The incredible momentum of 2 years ago now seemed like a political eternity.

He Who Tells the Story…

Narrative is now the main force in American politics.  In a way it always has been, but now the image-makers and strategists cannot ignore it.  The winners of elections and the leaders with true influence will be the ones who control the narrative, and even more importantly include the average voter in that storyline.  The money and power of elections will be not the ones who spend the most on TV ads and bumper stickers, but the ones who leverage social media, viral video, and who tell the most compelling story.

This is because these media are where the narrative is being communicated, and further where the whole tale goes viral, where it joins with the people’s own story.  Facebook for instance, will not be nearly as important as just another type of billboard or position statement, but as a way to interact, and hand the baton of the story off to the community.  Successful leaders must think conversation more than TV ad.  For when Sarah Palin puts up a message on Facebook, people hear it.  But when someone comments on the message she just put up, in a real way now they feel as though they have entered into the conversation with Sarah Palin, and their friends are all now included.

This is not to say that money on print and TV ads will not be important.  On the contrary, those who don’t get their story told to the biggest possible audiences will have no ability to control the narrative or include others in it.  Nor does the focus on social media mean that money can simply be thrown into these technologies in the same way that they are thrown into TV and print.

The real center of power, and money-making potential will be in crafting the narrative and handling the exchange between one way communication and conversation.  The challenge will be in making the message  become a story, and making the candidate’s story become the people’s story.  And the ability to control and manage that narrative will be the difference between the future John McCains and the Barak Obamas. -Ryan

For further research on this, watch this incredible lecture by Simon Senek on Ted.com

Grinchoversy

GrinchoversyHeaderThe following is a reprint of an article published by Ryan Shinn in his channel on Examiner.com

This year the keep Christ in Christmas debate has heated up anew with First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor, Robert Jeffress, new website listing businesses that are refusing to acknowledge Christmas.  He has appeared on Fox News as well as local news outlets discussing this apparently controversial site.

The current debate seems to have three sides, those who support Jeffress for taking a stand on this issue, secularists who are attacking Jeffress for various reasons, and Christians who think the whole debate is distracting from the purpose of Christmas.

Eric Wallace’s blog, The Unwasted Life, summarizes this last perspective quite well with a list of reasons why Jeffress is off-base.  Yet while Eric makes very good points about why Christians should not take part in this debate at all, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

Most of the anti-Jeffress discussion falls into three basic categories.  The first is that while Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, it has always been primarily a secular holiday with most of its elements derived from pagan sources that have little to do with the actual birth of Christ.  People have pointed out that elements such as Christmas trees do not have Christian beginnings, but most of these things were adopted by early Christian missionaries as cultural touch points used to relate the gospel to the people’s pagan traditions.  This sort of evolution is happening currently with Halloween.  Many churches celebrate the holiday as a Harvest Festival and exchange the day’s original purpose with a Christ-centered message.

The second attack is that Christians have no business getting involved with political debates that play into the hands of the secularists. The problem with this argument is that it misses the point entirely.  Many Christians are simply tired of the expectation that they will spend a lot of money for gifts at stores that refuse to even mention Christmas.  The message is, “give us money while we disrespect you.”  Many Christians are responding with their dollars.  This is not as much a sign of protest, but capitalist democracy.

Finally, they attack Jeffress directly for more controversial statements he has made, particularly regarding homosexuals and Muslims.  This is not surprising.  When people have little of value to say in defense of their positions, they often resort to ad hominem attacks.  Whether Jeffress is against homosexuality or Islam, or kills puppies, it has no bearing on this issue.  -Ryan

Wikileaks, The Federal Reserve Bank, and a blind free press

Wikileaks Header

A Busy Week in the Newsroom

For connoisseurs of news and politics, the flurry of activity this week has been thrilling.  There have been assassinations in Iran, countries in the EU going bankrupt, and another little scandal brought on by a website called Wikileaks.org.  Over the last day and a half, the US has also willingly revealed some rather embarrassing information about the actions of the Federal Reserve Bank over the last few years.

On Wednesday the Federal Reserve revealed new information about the recipients of the money given in 2008 and 2009 in order to bail out businesses and banks under TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).  The information also indicated dollar amounts the bank has given.  According to The Washington Post, the Fed essentially loaned GE $16 billion, Harley Davidson $2.3 billion, and Verizon $1.5 billion.  None of this was publicly known prior to Wednesday’s announcement.  This new information is serious and troubling, as partly indicated by its placement on the front page of many newspapers and top-red status on the Drudgereport.

This federal candor brings to the surface some serious questions.  Why would the government choose to release such scandalous information at this time, when they are already embarrassed by the current leak of information?  Further, what do they stand to gain through this level of disclosure?  Finally, how could government funds allocated to some of the largest companies in the US, totaling $3.3 trillion go unnoticed by any of the nation’s news outlets until now, and what does that mean about the state of American journalism?

Candor in the Fed

Time almost always clarifies questions such as these, but at this moment Wikileaks appears to be more the impetus behind this Fed announcement than merely tangential to it.  Wikileaks has been a constant thorn in the side of the US government over the past several years, as it has revealed increasingly damaging and embarrassing classified information about the government’s secret activities.  This week, they began publishing 251,287 classified US diplomatic cables on their website.  While this document dump is possibly less damaging than some previous leaks, it is very embarrassing for the US.

But what appears to be even more significant is the website’s claim to be on the verge of releasing information on “a major bank that is still in existence,” according to a Reuters report.  Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange has declined to announce the name of this bank.  So people are guessing.  Prognosticators are placing their money on Bank of America.  They might be wrong.

Of course there could be other reasons for The Fed’s recent disclosure, but it appears likely that they are assuming that the next Wikileaks disclosure (set for January) will target the Federal Reserve Bank itself.  This would make sense.  In order to stay relevant, Wikileaks is under pressure to have increasingly major leaks to share.  It is not clear what vendetta the site has against the United States (if it is not simply about freedom of information—which seems doubtful), but it is clear that the site is focused more on government actions than it is on business corruption.  Sharing secret bank documents would be somewhat out of the site’s typical MO.

If the Fed assumes that the next leak is to be about them (whether it actually is or not), it would make sense for them to dump this information while there is already so much political embarrassment on the table.  The chances that the banking information will get lost in the glut of news are much greater, and it takes away power from Wikileaks disclosures, lessening the impact.  If the Fed is wrong on this guess, they will be playing into Assange’s strategy quite nicely, however.  The Fed must assume that this information cannot be hidden forever, and now could be as good a time as any to release it while it must compete for front page status.

A Blind Press

One question that doesn’t appear to be answerable at the moment is, how in the world did the entire US free press miss $3.3 trillion in unreported aid sent to major American businesses?  That much money does not get hidden very easily, even in an economy the size of the United States.  One might understand how money sent to GE, which owns NBC and affiliated news outlets, might have suppressed this inside their newsrooms, but how the news could have escaped every competing outlet and the blogosphere is simply astounding.  Perhaps the American free press should be more embarrassed about this disclosure than the Federal Reserve Bank and the US government.

Many answers to these riddles will have to wait until after January.  But the American public should expect more self-disclosures by the US, and possibly American banks, and further world tension involving Wikileaks.  December and January should be quite exciting.   -Ryan

Radio Talk

Radio Talk

In High School, shortly after Bill Clinton was elected President, I discovered Rush Limbaugh and talk radio.  I have been a regular listener every since.  In recent years I have become a little bit more picky about whom I listen to, filtering out those who seem to be mere spin-doctors and mouthpieces.  Yet still sometimes my car is playing a CD, but just as often it is tuned to AM talk.

Currently, the big topic of talk radio discussion has been the current TSA screening procedures and scanning machines.  Today I heard Rush Limbaugh loudly telling America that we must not stand for this personal intrusion into our lives, that we must fight back.  He wasn’t telling people to take up arms, but that we needed to push back against our government in order to protect our freedom.

It is very true that we must be constantly vigilant to protect our personal freedoms, especially from a government that is always expanding and looking for more power and control.  Governments will always look to expand and exert more hegemony over their people, and there is no better check against government domination than an ever-vigilant populace.

Further, screeners putting their hands down people’s pants are a gross intrusion that is unacceptable.  Using terrorism as an excuse to confiscate personal liberty is an Orwellian nightmare that cannot be allowed in this country.  Our founding fathers warned us of this.  They even the Fourth Amendment into the bill of rights guaranteeing us that the government could not search us without probable cause.  This amendment is used to as precedent for things like the “right” to abortion, but is being ignored in this case, where the government is literally doing the thing prohibited.  Basically, Rush is right.

But as I was listening, I started to wonder how Rush’s conversation might have been different if President Bush were still in charge.  There would have been people out protesting.  The blogs would be full of people CAPS-ing vitriolic about how “the regime” is destroying American’s freedoms.  Rush would be on air telling people that the government was doing all it could to prevent another attack on the homeland.  He would be comparing this to all that America had to do during World War 2, and showing that it was really nothing in comparison.  He would tell listeners that, ‘we are at war and there is an enemy putting bombs in their underpants, trying to kill innocent Americans.’

The point is, that life is always more complicated than the pundits and partisans and talking heads would lead us to believe.  The TSA is staffed by people with advanced intelligence information that certainly includes ways that terrorists are actively trying to kill us.  All it would take is for some bombs to go off, and people would be crying out for more security and asking why these things weren’t done in the first place.

While it seems that this is a gross intrusion on the government’s part, talk radio and others are constantly seeking to increase the volume and frenzy of political debate.  They do this not just for ratings, although that is certainly a motive, but also because their goal is to motivate the people into action against the opposing side.  Active people lead to desired change.  It is dramatic and functional.  It also makes for good radio.

Unfortunately, riled and rowdy masses seldom act prudently.  Passionate people tend to pay attention to things that validate their world-view, and dismiss evidence to the contrary.  But it is pretty obvious that this is seldom an accurate picture.  In this case, while it seems clear to most people that this is a clear breach of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Americans, it is also obvious that there are strong indicators of impending terrorist threats that the government is straining to prevent.  While Americans must be vigilant in protecting freedom, we must enter into this conversation with the type of sobriety that people like Rush aren’t likely to give us.  -Ryan

Presidential Controvercy – part 1

Obama HeaderA couple of weeks ago, President Obama gave a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in support of Hispanic Heritage Month.  His remarks sent the blogs and talk shows all aflutter.  During his comments, which I have linked below, he talked about the great diversity of people that have always made up our country, saying:

We didn’t always get along. But over the centuries, what eventually bound us together —
what made us all Americans — was not a matter of blood, it wasn’t a matter of birth. It
was faith and fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear. We hold these truths
to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights:
life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

What upset many people was the omission of the words “by their Creator” from Obama’s quotation of the Declaration of Independence, and that certainly is an area of concern.  I have heard commentators mention that Obama, who always uses a teleprompter when he speaks, hesitated very noticeably when it got to that part, proving that the “under God” was there, but he decided to remove it.  That argument is quite weak though, since it could have been missing from the prompter, and he could have been debating putting it in, but decided that the speech writers knew best.  All of this is extreme navel gazing of the sort that greatly annoys me.

In my mind there are a few other much more significant issues about the speech in general, that need to be mentioned.  I will spend the next few blog posts explaining what I believe are the areas of real concern that the circumstances of this speech should be bringing to the surface, starting with the very occasion for which his remarks were given.  But before we continue, consider taking the time to listen to Obama’s speech in its entirety.  It is one of his more eloquent and brief appearances.  The most controversial part is at 21:40.

Malignant Segregation

First of all, the whole [insert politically correct cause here] Heritage/History Month trend has got to stop.  For those of us who are not politically savvy enough, let us make up a fanciful illustration to illustrate the reality of how all this works.  The National Association for Annoying Political Correctness (known as the NAAPC), an advocacy group, gets together and brain storm ways of making more people pay attention to them.  The term advocacy group is usually just code language for a group of people who want more political power.   Like a 3 year old child, the worst thing that any advocacy group can imagine is to be ignored.  They are like fairies from Neverland, if you say you don’t believe they exist, they die.  They can only be revived by clapping.

So the NAAPC realizes that they need to be creative and do what every other advocacy group is doing, which is to create their own holiday.  There was a period of time in the late 80’s and early 90’s when they all came up with their own day to celebrate.  The NAAPC had Shove Through Ur Politics Day (STUPD) in ’91 and ’92, but soon after, they followed all of the other advocacy groups and expanded to a whole month.

All they had to do in order to get 1/12 of a year of attention instead of 1/365 was to send out a press release and print a few thousand free promotional calendars with the dates on them.  It all happened quickly, despite a few intense meetings on what to call the 25th of December, instead of Christmas.  They settled on Cold Celebration of Things Inoffensive. They were originally going to call it Winter Celebration, but people got upset that the other seasons weren’t included.  Kwanza made the cut, but the dates for Hanukah were removed entirely, leaving only blank calendar squares.

The news media was all too happy to do a whole series of stories about PCHM (Politically Correct History Month) because the Democratic National Committee was only producing enough material for 15 minutes of the newscast.  So they only did the weather twice during the half hour broadcast (instead of the usual 3 times) and cut out the stories about Rocky the water-skiing squirrel, and why you shouldn’t leave your pets in the car when it is 100 degrees outside.   This left a full 15 minutes of each newscast to advertise Politically Correct History Month.

Suddenly the entire country was celebrating a whole month of Political Correctness as if it had been handed down by the Holiday Gods.  Hallmark was even making some cards for people to buy, and the NAAPC had a few big parties to celebrate, which they bankrolled with all the new donations coming in.

Back to reality:

The NAAPC is fake, but the situation is all too real.  These organizations aren’t trying to be malevolent.  They are catering to their own interests.  That, my friends is why every month is now covered by some special interest group, telling you about their history.  My personal favorite is Women’s History Month, which isn’t really about the history of women, or it would be all about how an egg got fertilized in the first place, Eve, and evolution.

So here is Barak Obama giving a speech about how we are unified, while at a meeting of only Hispanic people, talking about Hispanic issues, for a holiday invented by people who want more attention for Hispanic causes.  Keep in mind, I am not anti-Hispanic.  I am anti special interests.  If a group is being seriously abused, minority unity is important to get past the repression.  But in all circumstances, special interest groups exist to separate themselves from the bulk of the population and segregate.  If you don’t believe me, listen to where the applause is during the speech.  The cheering does not come when Obama talks about unity.  The people applaud when he says “Mexico.”  Crowds are actually pretty easy to psychoanalyze.  They cheer for the things they are committed to, and boo or ignore the things they aren’t.

The words of the Declaration say,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…[skipping to the end] And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

So, Obama’s speech at the Hispanic Caucus was troubling not just for its omission of God, but for its catering to a continued idea that celebrating America’s diversity is best accomplished by segregating its citizenry. We won’t be truly diverse when every interest has its own day, or month, or colored ribbon.  We will be truly diverse when no one desires any of those things at all.

Investigative Journalism Awesomeness

Extra

According to Miriam-Webster one of the hallmarks of what defines journalism is “writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.”  The framers of the Constitution of the United States understood that this was a key aspect of a free society.  This was inherent in the protection of the fourth estate written into the First Amendment.

Bloggers and Foxy News types are always complaining that this has been forgotten, but sometimes we need a refresher course with some easily digestible facts.

Case in point

LA Times articleA recent Hot Air link from the Los Angeles Times gave a snapshot into statistics regarding the current immigration controversy in Arizona.  The Article by Teresa Watanabe, Immigration now a top concern among Latinos, poll shows, reported that the poll “of 504 Latinos” revealed that immigration was now the main concern of American Latinos, spurred by the new Arizona immigration law that they overwhelmingly opposed.

The article further stated  that this issue would “galvanize Latinos of all political stripes into voting in November,” and that the majority would only vote for candidates supporting an “immigration overhaul.”

All of this may be quite accurate.  But as usual, there is a lot written between the lines of this article.

To her credit, at least the author lists the sponsors of the survey, the Hispanic Federation and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).  What Ms. Watanabe leaves out is that both the Hispanic Federation and LULUC have a very clearly presented agenda that is perhaps important in determining the validity of any survey that they undertake on the matter of immigration.

Hispanic Federation ArticleThe Hispanic Federation, whose mission is, “To serve our community by building and supporting Latino institutions,” has recently put out a statement both condemning protection of the border and demanding “comprehensive immigration reform” as the only fix for our immigration problem.  Keep in mind that “comprehensive immigration reform” is one of those liberal talking-point catchphrases for  amnesty for illegal aliens.  “We need comprehensive immigration reform so hard working undocumented immigrants, who do the jobs other Americans won’t do, can finally come out of the shadows,” I believe is the officially sanctioned wording these days.  When any of these phrases are used, it becomes pretty clear which side of the issue the author is leaning toward.

On its homepage, the Federation refers to the survey in question, and gives the community’s reaction to the “Racial profiling law.”  One could not by any stretch of the imagination consider the Hispanic Federation an impartial party in this issue.

Lulac's websiteLULAC is far more militant as an organization.  Their website has an open call to boycott Arizona, although they trickily word it as, “boycott Senate bill 1070,” superimposed over the state outline.  I guess this prevents anyone from saying they actually called for a state boycott.  How clever.  I guess they also  fail as a disinterested survey party.



One would expect better results from someone with a USC degree like Teresa Watanabe.  But oh, wait!  Her Facebook page lists her as a fan of Reform Immigration For America.  Their agenda is made perfectly clear.

Teresa Watanabe's FacebookReform Immigration for America's website

So to recap, Thoroughly researched article—fail; Objective writing—fail; impartial survey—fail; LA Times writer trying to uncover truth wherever it may be found—massive fail.  This is no surprise.  In a recent survey conducted by RyanShinn.com, the Los Angeles times was found to be unreliable by 92% of respondents.

Why is this so bad?

Thomas Jefferson said that, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”  He wasn’t the only one with this sentiment.  The press was understood as being the main instrument to counter inevitable propaganda intended to control and enslave a free society.

Dictators have also long known this.  Vladimir Lenin stated this principle quite nicely. “The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses.”

It comes as no secret to anyone paying attention that the American main-stream press has largely abandoned the value of a free press in favor of acting more as a mouthpiece for propaganda that more easily fits their world-view.  But this fact needs to continually be brought back to our collective consciousness, lest we forget.    -Ryan

The Free Information Age -part 2

In a previous post, I discussed the beginning of what I have dubbed the Free Information Age.  This post was not meant as simply a parenthetical comment to the current zeitgeist, but as an introduction to a discussion of both the cultural waters that the Church must swim in, and a means of strategy for how the Church can carry its message and navigate in this new economy of communication and ideas.

There was a time in which many would accept a bull or ecclesiastical pronouncement with an assumption of infallibility.  Those days are gone.  The Church is mourning this, and that is natural.  But that is mostly because it is natural to prefer blind submission.  The Catholic church didn’t like Martin Luther’s criticism of its theology and practices, in the same way that the Church currently clings to its old position of assumed inerrancy.

Some since of assumed credibility is actually important.  No two parties can truly dialogue if one party questions the validity of every position the other takes.  But should the Church actually fear shouldering the burden of proof?  Let me illustrate.

I remember as a child getting into the argument over “My dad can beat-up your dad.”  This argument was never solved, and never tested.  As a child, I was certain that my step-father was much stronger than anyone else’s, but I secretly knew that there was a possibility that he wasn’t, and the other boy wondered the same.

But what if my father had been Mike Tyson (the 80’s version)?  In that case, I would never have backed down.  The other boy might, but I would be safe in knowing that my position was indisputably secure.

In a similar way, Christians must know that Jesus is who He says He is.  They know that His claims are indisputable.  We have nothing to fear in marketplace of ideas.  We don’t need to defenders of God to the world.  As His claims are tested, He will be shown authentic.

One of the reasons that Christianity has difficulty in this is that our rhetoric is often louder than our actions.  Jesus was clear in that we are to be people who are known by the love that we share, joy, peace, patience, etc.  These are all actions, not words.  Our actions are to be explained by rhetoric when necessary.  In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, we are to always “speak softly but carry a big stick.”

If skepticism of information can cause us to do this more, then it will bring us back to the type of Christianity that we should practice, instead of the rhetorically-driven example of the political Church.  -Ryan

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2009 Predictions

As events unfold throughout the year, I do my best to reflect how they have fulfilled my beginning of the year predictions.  That said, there are a few recent events that I found noteworthy.

First, there was the recent terror plans in New York City and Denver that seemed to have been foiled, at least for now.  I had predicted that this year there would probably be an attempt (not that wild a guess, really).  I also Twittered about the likelihood of one upcoming soon merely weeks ago.    There is a good article about the recent situation here.

Second, although I did not put this as one of my points in this year’s predictions, one of the things I have been discussing at great length is that the big social policy debate of the coming years will be on the issue of assisted suicide.  This will be less aimed at terminal disease pain relief, and more about the elderly.  Unfortunately, I haven’t written much about it on here.  Last week, Newsweek’s cover story, “The Case for Killing Granny,” advocates this position in a way that I could not have imagined (and still can’t believe).  As if on cue, the Brits are following right along, according to this Reuters report-Ryan

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The Fall and Rise of Barbarism Part 7

This is part 7 of a multi-part series.  Read part 1 here.

Barbarian

Barbarian

The Effect on Faith

Exactly what to expect for America itself in this future, is very difficult to say. Possibilities include a weakened America existing in its same form but having less world influence, to America’s basic destruction by both outside, and internal fighting, or America existing more as a pre-Civil War loose collection of states. There is no way to predict what the American future will look like at this time.

But that doesn’t really answer what will happen to the American and world Christian outlook. Christianity does not rely on Americanism, of course. But America does powerfully affect the world Christian community. While the growth of the Christian faith is epicentered in both African and Asia, with secularization and Islamification being more prevalent in the West, America is still the center of the financial, resource, and influence world of faith.

The loss of America’s influence will certainly have a huge affect on the Christian world. But how this will work itself out in time is not estimable at this time. Certainly, there will be destabilization in the Christian community. This will most like work itself out to mean that there will be no Capital for Christianity. It might also end in increased persecution around the world, as there will be no powerhouse to protect Christianity’s interests.

However, history tells us that persecution is good for Christianity, as it causes the Christian community to invest fully in their faith, to make Christianity less a culture, and ends in enormous numerical growth. As Christians, we don’t have to worry about the future of the Church. We know what happens in the end. We don’t know all that will happen between then and now, and we certainly know it won’t always be easy.

But that doesn’t really answer what will happen to the American and world Christian outlook.  Christianity does not rely on Americanism, of course.  But America does powerfully affect the world Christian community.  While the growth of the Christian faith is epicentered in both African and Asia, with secularization and Islamification being more prevalent in the West, America is still the center of the financial, resource, and influence world of faith.

The loss of America’s influence will certainly have a huge affect on the Christian world.  But how this will work itself out in time is not estimable at this time.  Certainly, there will be destabilization in the Christian community.  This will most like work itself out to mean that there will be no Capital for Christianity.  It might also end in increased persecution around the world, as there will be no powerhouse to protect Christianity’s interests.

However, history tells us that persecution is good for Christianity, as it causes the Christian community to invest fully in their faith, to make Christianity less a culture, and ends in enormous numerical growth.  As Christians, we don’t have to worry about the future of the Church.  We know what happens in the end.  We don’t know all that will happen between then and now, and we certainly know it won’t always be easy. -Ryan

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